PLEASINGTON, Sir Robert (c.1369-1405), of Burley, Rutland and Ellal, Lancs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b.c.1369, s. and h. of Sir Robert Pleasington (d.1393), of Holborn, Mdx. and Burley, chief baron of the Exchequer, by his 1st w. m. by 1394, Isabel (d.1411), prob. da. and h. of Joan Bilton of Bilton in Holderness, Yorks., at least 3s, inc. Sir Henry*. Kntd. by Jan. 1397.1
This MP’s somewhat obscure personal history is overshadowed by that of his father, the distinguished judge, Sir Robert Pleasington, who was removed from office in 1386 by Richard II ostensibly because of his failure to secure certain revenues for the Crown. The real reason for Sir Robert’s disgrace lay, however, in his growing friendship with Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, one of the chief critics of the court party; and when Woodstock and the other Lords Appellant finally managed to secure the impeachment of Richard’s favourites in the Merciless Parliament of February 1388, it was Pleasington who acted as one of their spokesmen. Yet despite his loyalty to their cause, he never again returned to high office, and died in September 1393 without recovering more than a fraction of his former power. Since he had shrewdly chosen to invest a substantial part of his income in land he was, none the less, able to spend his last years in comfort and leave a sizeable estate to be shared between his son, the subject of this biography, and his second wife, Agnes. Robert Pleasington the younger was aged about 24 at the time of his father’s death, and thus gained almost immediate possession of his inheritance.2 This comprised the manor of Burley and other land in the neighbouring village of Alsthorpe, then said to be worth £34 p.a., certain unspecified holdings in Lincolnshire (probably in Toynton where his son was later described as lord of the manor), rents and tenements in Southampton subsequently valued at £20 p.a. and two houses with a garden in Holborn, which seem to have brought Pleasington a yearly rent of at least £5 when he first became landlord. His patrimony also included part of the manor of Ellal and other property in Lancashire, where earlier generations of the Pleasington family had made their home. His widowed stepmother obtained an allocation of dower from Sir Robert’s estate in Yorkshire, and perhaps because of the problems of revenue collection she eventually agreed to surrender her title to him in return for a substantial life annuity of £50. He thus became seised of messuages and land scattered throughout the Craven area, as well as the manors of Ilkley, Healaugh and Reeth (in Swaledale), together with their extensive appurtenances. Pleasington was burdened with this heavy financial commitment throughout his life, and may well have found it increasingly hard to raise the necessary sum from Yorkshire alone. His problem was further compounded by the award of a fee of £5 p.a. which he made in 1396 to his father’s trustee, Richard Banks (who eventally rose to become a baron of the Exchequer). The latter was supposed to be paid out of profits from the property in Holborn, although it soon became apparent that here too there were insufficient funds to meet the new charge.3
These difficulties were, however, as nothing compared with the severe blow dealt to Pleasington during the course of the second Parliament of 1397, when his father, Sir Robert, was posthumously impeached for his complicity with Thomas of Woodstock and the other Lords Appellant. In April of the following year he was summoned under pain of £200 to appear in person before the King and council at Westminster for interrogation regarding certain ‘particular causes’ of especial concern to the Crown, which suggests that some pressure may have been put upon him, as it was upon so many others, to purchase a royal pardon. Yet none was forthcoming, and on 18 Mar. 1399 the commissioners who had been authorized to discharge all the outstanding business of the previous Parliament decreed that, in accordance with the sentence passed upon the late Sir Robert, all the estates held by him in 1387 were to be declared forfeit. King Richard’s agents moved so quickly that within a matter of weeks Pleasington’s Yorkshire manors were in the hands of the earl of Wiltshire, and his stepmother was deprived of her annuity. Fortunately for them, this state of affairs proved only temporary, for the Lancastrian usurpation brought with it a dramatic change in their fortunes. The first Parliament of Henry IV’s reign repealed all the acts of Richard’s last Parliament together with the judgements of the parliamentary commission, and Pleasington was restored to his patrimony.4
For a while it appeared that he would resume the interest in local affairs which had begun with his election as a shire knight for Rutland at the beginning of 1397, but the shock of his forfeiture and the financial strains attendant upon it clearly proved too much for him. In October 1399 he entered into a series of obligations for the repayment of a loan of £92 which he had raised from a clerk named John Pechel; and in the following July he was being sued by one of his neighbours in Holborn for a debt of over £14. He was well enough to witness a deed for John Culpepper* of Rutland in the summer of 1400, but soon began to suffer from intermittment periods of insanity, and on the suggestion of his wife a group of custodians was appointed by royal commission in April 1401 to take charge of both his person and the management of his estates. One of these men was Roger Flore, his colleague in the first Parliament of 1397, whose daughter, Agnes, later married his second son and eventual heir. Pleasington remained under supervision for the next three years at least, although by August 1404 he was sufficiently recovered to undergo an examination into the state of his mental health before the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. The latter evidently pronounced him sane, although he did not long enjoy what was effectively his second restoration to the family estates.5
Pleasington died on 2 May 1405, four days after making a will which specified that he was to be buried at the parish church of Burley. His wife, Isabel, was instructed to sell off the bulk of his possessions to pay for pious works, although the actual task of executing the will fell to Robert Caterall, vicar of Burley. Provision had no doubt already been made for his three children, who are not mentioned in the document. Since Robert, the eldest, was then only 11 years old, his wardship and marriage were awarded by Henry IV to Richard Banks, who still held office at the Exchequer. The boy died shortly afterwards, and was succeeded by his younger brother, Henry. The death of Agnes Pleasington in 1409, followed by that of his mother, Isabel, two years later, meant that when he finally came of age, in 1418, Henry Pleasington was able to take control of his entire inheritance.6
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Plesington, Plessyngton, Plesyngton.
- 1. C136/81/43; C137/54/37; C138/37/29; OR, i. 253; E. Williams, Early Holborn, i. no. 853. G.H. de S.N.P. Harrison (Hist. Yorks. 249) provides a somewhat misleading pedigree of the MP and his family, largely because of his belief that both Pleasington and his eldest son, Robert, were involved in a lawsuit over property in Holderness which reached the courts in 1406/7. Pleasington was, of course, dead by then, and Robert (who did not survive much longer) was still a child. It is, however, interesting to note that the proceedings refer to Isabel, daughter of Joan Bilton of Bilton in Holderness and wife of Robert Pleasington the younger; and there is a strong possibility that she was, in fact, our Member’s wife, or, more precisely by this date, widow. Pleasington’s younger son, Sir Henry, certainly claimed kinship with William Bilton of Holderness, Joan’s father.
- 2. DNB, xiv. 1308-9; Somerville, Duchy, i. 373, 467, 484; CFR, xi. 103, 118.
- 3. C136/81/43; C139/148/3; SC8/134/6660; CCR, 1392-6, pp. 186, 312; 1405-9, pp. 13-14; DKR, xxxiii. 5; HMC 11th Rep. III, 81-82; Feudal Aids, vi. 456; Chetham Soc. cv. 232; Harrison, 252; VCH Rutland, ii. 115; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), i. 240; Williams, i. no. 841; ii. nos. 1063, 1075.
- 4. RP, iii. 384-5, 425; CPR, 1396-9, p. 535; CCR, 1396-9, p. 277; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), i. 240.
- 5. CPR, 1399-1401, pp. 170, 473; 1402-5, p. 374; DKR, xxxiii. 5; CCR, 1399-1402, pp. 88, 91.
- 6. C137/54/37; C138/37/29; Reg. Repingdon (Lincoln Rec. Soc. lvii), i. 36-37; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 9, 24-25; 1419-22, p. 33; 1408-13, p. 148; CFR, xii. 305-6; xiii. 159, 204; Reg. Chichele, ii. 67-68, 638.